Articles in the Wellness category

Schools still have long way to go in preventing anti-gay harassment

ASBJFifty years from now, I predict, all the controversy over the rights of gay people to marry, to serve in the military, to be protected from bullying and harassment — in short, to live their lives like other ordinary Americans — will seem as distant (and, to the more progressive younger generation, as vaguely incomprehensible) as the struggles over racial equality and a woman’s right to vote.  I most likely won’t be around to see this, of course, but everything I know about how social and political change occurs in this country says that fear and prejudice will eventually give way to, well, reality.

But we’re not there yet. And one has to look only at the ongoing harassment of gay students in public schools and colleges to see how far we have to go. For the current issue of ASBJ, I wrote an update about this harassment and what schools are, and are not, doing about it. The occasion was a tragic one: the suicides of at least six LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students within the first month of school.

Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has taken an important step, telling districts that they could lose federal funds if they don’t take steps to protect gay students.

“A school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring,” the department said in a recent letter to schools.

My story ends with a heartfelt plea from Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, for school board members to look beyond the current bitter politics of the issue and work to end the harassment.

“We are losing wonderful kids,” says Rader, who has a transgendered child in college. “And we owe those who are living more than a life of shame and sadness.”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|November 30th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Publications, Wellness|Tags: , |

Creating food allergies policies and practices in schools

Eating food can be a pleasurable experience and food is often used to celebrate an occasion.  But what happens when certain foods are the enemy and make you afraid of eating?  Across the country, approximately three million children face that problem.  Food allergic children don’t know when the next food they eat will bring on a set of immunological responses that can sometimes lead to anaphylaxis – a severe, whole-body allergic reaction that develops rapidly, often within seconds or minutes and can be life-threatening.   

How can those children feel safe and supported in the school environment? That is what NSBA sought to answer through a webcast that aired on November 9, 2010.  The webcast was developed by NSBA to provide school leaders with the necessary information and tools to help keep food allergic children safe and ready to learn. 

The webcast featured NSBA’s own senior staff attorney, Lisa Soronen, who spoke of the legal implications of not addressing food allergies within schools, and School Health project associate Amanda Martinez, who provided the audience with useful resources to help revise or develop food allergy policies and practices within schools.  In addition, panelists included a school board member, a superintendent, a nutrition coordinator, a health services director, a school nurse, a CDC health scientist, a medical advisor to the FDA, a Vice President of FAAN, and two students and their parents who shared their personal experiences in dealing with food allergies in school.

The webcast covered an array of topics related to food allergies including: clinical background; problems surrounding food allergic children such as bullying; and food allergy policy, procedure and practice issues.  The panelists’ key messages to better manage food allergies within schools are: students, school staff, parents and the community need to be educated on the facts and practices; communication needs to be open and ongoing; and planning and training are essential. 

BoardBuzz has heard great things about the webcast and NSBA School Health Programs’ staff have received excellent reviews on it.  If you didn’t have the opportunity to view the webcast live, don’t miss out on checking its archived version.  To access it, go to http://www.esgn.tv/ and click on the webcast icon and let us know what you think!

Daniela Espinosa|November 29th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

Concussions in high school football

BoardBuzz likes that there has been a stronger focus and awareness on concussions in athletes of all level.

Injuries and even deaths have always been a part of athletics. Until the 1970s, when helmets became effective, football players often died from traumatic head injuries.

Today, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported on a high school football athlete who suffered a brain injury due to multiple concussions.

Check out the video report on CNN’s website.

Alexis Rice|November 23rd, 2010|Categories: High Schools, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

The Great American Smokeout- What will your district do?

BoardBuzz readers have seen a lot of changes in tobacco use prevention this year – a study was published demonstrating the effectiveness of tobacco-free school policies in Washington state and Australia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published two reports highlighting new evidence for renewed efforts to keep kids from starting to smoke, and the Food and Drug Administration is proposing to add larger, graphic warning labels to cigarette packaging.

Yet even with all of this attention, BoardBuzz knows that smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., and the tobacco industry remains innovative in its insidious marketing efforts – continuing to reach children with new “e-cigarettes,” menthol flavored additives, and forays into marketing through social media.  School districts can do their part in fighting the tobacco epidemic by making sure that all schools have comprehensive tobacco-free school policies – that is, policies which prohibit the use of all tobacco products, on all school property, for all people, at all times.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout, a day to combat tobacco addiction by asking smokers not to light up for one day.  On this day, thousands of people around the country will try to go a day without smoking, an experiment that will hopefully encourage many of them to quit altogether.  BoardBuzz thinks this is a great opportunity to start positive role modeling for kids and hopes that every school district will participate!

If your district or school is participating, we would love to hear about it- leave a comment!

And don’t forget that NSBA’s School Health Programs has a variety of resources available to help update and implement school tobacco policies, including a comprehensive packet of information: “Tobacco Use Prevention 101.” School boards will want to consult with their state school boards association as well to learn about sample or model policies and other information they may have and ensure that any policy adopted complies with relevant state laws. If you would like more information, or need assistance with your comprehensive tobacco-free schools policy, please visit NSBA’s School Health Programs or contact schoolhealth@nsba.org.

Caroline Myers|November 18th, 2010|Categories: Governance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

Raising awareness of global child abuse

This Friday, November 19 is the 10th annual World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, a recognition initiated in 2000 by the Women’s World Summit Foundation.  Many activities will take place around the world to increase awareness and educate people about this ongoing, global problem.

BoardBuzz recently read an inspirational memoir dealing with this difficult subject – and surprisingly, the book was not written by a woman, but by actor and former professional athlete Victor Rivas Rivers. In A Private Family Matter, the Cuban-born Rivers outlines his struggles to overcome his abusive childhood with the help of teachers, coaches and other families within his community. Rivers talks about his journey in this video from a speech given at the City Club of Cleveland:

 

Victor Rivas Rivers will be the National Hispanic Caucus Luncheon speaker on Monday, April 11 at the 2011 NSBA Annual Conference.

Barbara Moody|November 17th, 2010|Categories: Conferences and Events, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Wellness|

Stopping LGBT bullying and suicides

Check out this powerful new PSA video that is addressing the issues of LGBT bullying and suicides:

Alexis Rice|November 15th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Law, School Security, Student Achievement, Wellness|

Schools need specific plans to address students’ food allergies, experts say

Food allergies are on the rise–and while health experts aren’t exactly sure why, the growing prevalence of these chronic, potentially deadly, conditions pose real risks for students and their schools.

NSBA’s School Health Programs examined the issue on Nov. 9 with a webcast that featured national experts, district officials, and families who shared personal stories, policy challenges and best practices occurring throughout the country.

While there are about 170 different foods associated with allergies, eight are responsible for 90 percent of allergic reactions, said Stefano Luccioli, a senior medical adviser for the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Food Additive Safety.

Peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and eggs are among the list’s worst offenders, though children usually outgrow allergies to the latter two by the time they reach adulthood. In what quantities and to what degree these foods elicit severe allergic reactions is largely unknown, says Luccioli, though studies have shown delays in administering epinephrine injections account for 90 percent of the fatalities.

Surprisingly there are no national standards on how schools should address food allergies among students, though there are six main components to addressing chronic conditions that every district should heed, said Pete Hunt, the lead health scientist at the Adolescent and School Health division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which sponsored the webcast.

Creating a positive, receptive school climate; adopting a coordinated approach; establishing written emergency protocols; implementing practices to minimize exposure to allergens; training staff; and developing culturally and developmentally appropriate health education for students and staff are proactive and preventative steps that schools and districts should take, Hunt said.

The devil is in the details, however, as countless schools that have been ensnared or threatened with litigation over the years have discovered. Though it’s unlikely schools will be liable if a child ingests a food allergen, a district puts itself in jeopardy if it is not explicit about preventative measures and emergency protocol, said NSBA Senior Staff Attorney Lisa Soronen.

For example, allergens need to be discussed and planned for in all school settings, the types and frequency of training needs to be spelled out, and a crisis plan needs to assign tasks, Soronen said.

“Things like who’s in charge of administering the EpiPen need to be figured out,” she said.

The most successful approaches to addressing food allergies among students involve multiple players in the school and families.

“The key is educating the school community and parents and keeping the communication lines open,” said Lori Danella, the nutrition coordinator for Lee’s Summit School District R-7 in Missouri. “It takes everyone to be successful.”

Naomi Dillon|November 10th, 2010|Categories: School Board News, Wellness|

Is the U.S. Government hypocritical when it comes to cheese?

The New York Times had a fascinating article recently on how the U.S. Government is spending millions to promote cheese through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Management marketing campaign.

Cheese has become one of the largest sources of saturated fat in our diets.

Ironically, this is happening at the same time that the Department of Agriculture has created anti-obesity campaigns, the U.S. Congress is considering a bill to make the National School Lunch Program healthier, and First Lady Michelle Obama is working on tackling obesity through her Let’s Move initiative (which NSBA supports). Obama has even cited cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese as culprits for childhood obesity.

Alexis Rice|November 9th, 2010|Categories: Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Wellness|

Stopping bullying now

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying affects children’s physical and mental health and hinders their ability to perform well in school by making them feel unsafe and insecure.

With several recent high-profiling bullying deaths, President Barack Obama created an anti-bullying public video to encourage that harassment and discrimination in all its forms end in our schools and communities.

Obama noted in the video that  young people who are feeling depressed from bullying should reach out to people they trust including parents, teachers, or “folks that you know care about you just the way you are.”

Recently, a few new resources have been developed to help with bullying prevention in schools, check them out on NSBA’s website.

Let us know what you think. How is your community combating bullying?

Alexis Rice|October 25th, 2010|Categories: Multimedia and Webinars, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Student Achievement, Teachers, Wellness|

The week in blogs

Ever wonder why your students aren’t springing for the green beans, tofu, and spinach salad you so conscientiously offer at lunch? No, the answer isn’t, “Kids don’t like vegetables.” (Although that’s not a bad guess.) Maybe it has more to do with how and where you display the food in your schools’ cafeterias.

Skeptical? Then look at the “Op-Chart” in Friday’s New York Times, which shows how two Cornell Professors greatly increased the intake of all things green and healthy by making some simple changes to the food line. One example: “Moving the chocolate milk behind the plain milk led students to buy more plain milk.”

Is school technology worth it? That’s a loaded question, perhaps, because even instructional technology gurus — especially technology gurus — stress that it’s what you do with the technology, not simply whether or not you have it.  Still, Amanda Ripley’s piece in Slate (which I found via the commentary of education blogger Joanne Jacobs) underscores that point by noting that schools in some high-performing nations (Finland and South Korea) make do with some pretty traditional tools.

Some interesting comments follow on Jacobs’ blog, including this perceptive one by “Dave.”

“A successful school is a great thing, but the article strongly suggests that low-tech is the secret, when I would say that time spent and parental involvement are the things making these examples successful.

Jacobs has another interesting post about the ironically named Liberty High School in Virginia, which barred students from taping their mouths shut to protest abortion. She says it appears to be a violation of Tinker vs. Des Moines the famous First Amendment case that upheld the right of students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. She also notes that students have done the same thing during the Day of Silence Protest to support gay students.

Maybe. But you could make the case that taping one’s mouth changes the dynamics of the classroom – think of the impact on a classroom discussion — in a fundamental way that adversely affects the education of other students.

That said, I think it’s important for students to be able to express themselves on important issues in school. Seems like a case you could argue both ways.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|October 23rd, 2010|Categories: Curriculum, Educational Research, Educational Technology, Governance, Policy Formation, School Board News, School Law, Student Achievement, Wellness|
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